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Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

ESA is an "income replacement" benefit for people who have a health condition or disability which limits their ability to work. As of May 2016 there were just under 2.4 million ESA claimants in Great Britain, including 429,000 in the Work-Related Activity Group.

There are two types of ESA:

  • contributory ESA, for those with a sufficient National Insurance contribution record; and

  • income-related ESA, which is means-tested.

Income-related ESA will eventually be replaced by Universal Credit; contributory ESA will remain as a separate benefit. The Government currently expects the introduction of Universal Credit to be fully complete by 2022.

A person must undergo a Work Capability Assessment to be eligible for ESA. There are three possible outcomes of a Work Capability Assessment:

  • the claimant is found “Fit for Work” and may instead apply for JSA or Universal Credit;

  • the claimant is placed in the “Work-Related Activity Group” (WRAG) and must undertake “work-related activity”;

  • the claimant is placed in the “Support group” and is not required to take part in any work-related activity.

From 29th Sept 2017 ESA claimants in the support group will no longer need to be reassessed if they:

  • have a severe, lifelong disability, illness or health condition

  • are unlikely to ever be able to move into work

Following the assessment, successful ESA claimants receive a standard rate plus appropriate additional amount.

These additions are known as the Support Component and the Work-Related Activity Component.

Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 abolishes the Work Related Activity Component for new claimants from 3rd April 2017.